Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

2022 National Coding Symposium

April 14, 2022 American Printing House Episode 50
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
2022 National Coding Symposium
Show Notes Transcript

It's time for the 2022 National Coding Symposium, presented by APH and Partners. We’ll learn what to expect from this year’s event and hear what’s new and exciting. We’ll also speak with one keynote speaker, who invented a well-known computer screen reader. After that, we’ll hear what’s available for students interested in learning how to code.

Participants (In Order of Appearance)

  • Jack Fox, APH Talking Book Narrator
  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Leanne Grillot, APH National Director of Outreach Services
  • Gina Fugate, Maryland School for the Blind’s, Technology & Lego Engineering Instructor
  • Ken Perry, APH Senior Software Engineer, Technology Product Research
  • Jason Martin, Center for Assistive Technology Training, Assistive Technology Trainer
  • Ted Henter, Computer Programmer and Businessperson (retired)
  • Tai Tomasi, APH ABIDE Director

Additional Links

Jack Fox:

Welcome to Change Makers a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to Change Makers I'm APH's Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we are getting ready for this year's 2022 National Coding Symposium Presented by APH and Partners. We'll learn what to expect from this year's event and hear what's new and exciting. We'll also speak with one keynote speaker who invented a well known computer screen reader. Can you guess what that is? After that, we'll hear what's available for adults interested in learning how to code. Here to talk a bit more about the upcoming Coding Symposium. We have APH's National Director of Outreach Services, Leanne Grillot. Hello, Leanne and welcome to Change Makers.

Leanne Grillot:

Hello, Sara. Glad to be back.

Sara Brown:

It's that time again, time for Coding Symposium and for those not familiar, can you tell us what the Coding Symposium is and why it's important. And what's its goal?

Leanne Grillot:

The Coding Symposium is, is new. This is the second year. So last year was the very first year we'd ever done something like this. This is year two, and we are still headed down that road of awareness for coding. That coding is a huge viable career for individuals with sight loss of any ages and to, to spread the word that this is something to take note and educate people about. So the goal awareness right now would love it to be more than that someday , but we, I think are still at that awareness stage and it's built for those K12 budding college level students, but not only them. It's trying to get the educators around them to know about this viable career and giving opportunities for them .

Sara Brown:

And we're gonna cover the basics. So when will the event take place?

Leanne Grillot:

It's it's again, happening in may this year, it'll be May 9 through the 13 and Monday through Friday afternoons, East Coast or mornings West Coast, depending on where you are. Uh , it , it is a little bit shorter than last year, but it's still jam packed with information.

Sara Brown:

Can you give us an age range of the participants for the Coding Symposium?

Leanne Grillot:

So we, we try to be very careful with our K12 students who are minors. So of course, if they're wanting to attend a person over 18 should be registering them for them to be able to participate, or maybe a teacher is having a group of students in their classroom participating together. So these are great options and yes, they are 100% able to be participants. In this event, they will learn so much and be able to have opportunities to be engaged, but you don't have to have a student in K12 or to be able to attend this. We're looking for those teachers of students with visual impairments, but also the assistive technology specialists. And I'm gonna go one step further. We're looking for those general education professionals who teach coding or teach programming or teach web technologies, whether it's at the K-12 level or even that college, maybe a technical school, because the goal is to make sure we have the people around the field of coding recognize this is a viable career. We just need to make sure it's successful .

Sara Brown:

Can you talk to us a little bit more about this year's event? What can we expect?

Leanne Grillot:

So this year we have chosen to have each day focused around a different type of coding program. So Monday it's about getting started with coding and as a TVI, myself, I immediately think of things like Code Quest, Code & Go Mouse and Code Jumper, because these are familiar to me. So that is that focus for Monday. We're talking about that, just getting your feet wet day two. Tuesday is focused on HTML, which is a coding language. Many people think immediately of building a webpage, but that's not the only code you can use to build a webpage. So Wednesday we're talking about Quorum. Quorum is a coding language that was originally built for coders who had visual impairments, but it used by others. And so that's Wednesday Quorum. Thursday is the snake it's Python. So we are talking about yet another coding program called Python. Then Friday, we're talking about how all of this moves us forward. It moves our students forward and including, I hate to say it, but even myself with understanding what this is and then where it takes our students further. So how do we go further on Friday to make sure that we're adding coding into the lives of our students at any age? Now you can expect a similar schedule each day. So just because I named a, a type of code that doesn't mean it's going to be a very different day. Each time, each day, we're gonna have a keynote speaker, which is a professional that come from a variety of places that, that they themselves have a sight impairment. So JAWS, Touchological, and VDA and Yahoo. I mean, these are things that many people in our own field will know. There'll be panel discussion and question , and answer times with topics. So this is an opportunity for students or educational professionals to ask questions, things like bringing up coding concepts. And how do you do web design with HTML or understanding what Quorum is, or how do we introduce Python then gonna be a section of the day where we actually split the learning space. We have students and learners going into one space and educators going into another space at the same time. Now educators will really be engaged in discussing about the teaching and providing access to students regarding that day's topic. Whereas the students will be engaged in an activity of learning about that day's topic as a TVI, depending on , uh, what's going on during that day, I might choose to go into the student section because I'm supporting students in my class. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm making sure my students can participate in the student section. If I don't have students that day, I might choose to go into that educator session and learn a little bit more about what I can do to provide access to students. And then additionally, there will be a portion of the, where students and teachers who have chosen to do and engage in our sample lessons. They'll actually be able to talk about those sample lessons and truly if a listener has not found those yet, they should take a look and get involved.

Sara Brown:

Now I understand there's a , there's something new this year. There's gonna be locations throughout the country that are gonna conduct coding activities beforehand. Can you talk about that?

Leanne Grillot:

So they're going to be engaging, not only in some of the sample lessons that we have provided to everyone, but they also have ongoing education happening right now, meaning they were doing this without us saying, Hey, we're having a Coding Symposium. And so we wanna be able to highlight what's actively going on out there in educational places. So that's what they will be doing. Now. Some of the locations that we have, we have the California School for the Blind, the Washington State School for the Deaf and Blind and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. And that's just to name a few, a really, truly, you could be a participant, meaning anyone out there that's listening to this podcast could actually be a participant by engaging in these activities and then talking about it during the session, during the Coding Symposium.

Sara Brown:

And can you talk more about the opportunities that are out there that you want the listeners to know?

Leanne Grillot:

Well, besides the great lesson plans, then I can't say that enough, these were active educators that put these together thinking with students in mind. So that's definitely something to tap into whether it's now, or maybe you're not ready to do it, but wanna get ready for , um, the , uh , week of code that's done in December for all students keep that in my, but there's also scholarships that are going to be posted for high school and college students pursuing a career in the stem fields. So this is another way to make sure our students are involved and maybe they're not of that age, but they realize that there's this , um , funding to help support them in their education.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And can you tell us where listeners can go if they wanna sign up and participate?

Leanne Grillot:

So if you can remember, you could do www.aphconnectcenter.org/coding/ , or if you're a Google or internet browser, if you type in "APH Coding Symposium," it's usually the first link that comes up. So those are two easy ways to be able to sign up. Register registration is free, it costs you no money, and you have the opportunity to register for all five days, or you can pick and choose based on the schedule or the code. That means the most to you. If you think learning about four different ways to engage students in this , uh, activity, then maybe you just pick HTML. You wanna learn a little bit more, you pick that day to attend . So that's the nice thing about registration this year is you can pick any of the days to register for or all of them , if that's what you like.

Sara Brown:

And Leanne, is there anything else you'd like to say before we, we conclude?

Leanne Grillot:

I am hoping to see people from around the United States, but I'm gonna say also around the world, we had international attendance last year and I sure hope everyone comes to join us.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much Leanne for joining us on Change Makers.

Leanne Grillot:

Thank you. Talk to you later, Sara,

Sara Brown:

And we have put a link to the Coding Symposium in the show notes. Now we're gonna talk to someone who is leading Coding Symposium activities beforehand, and a Coding Symposium presenter. We have Maryland School for the Blinds Technology and LEGO Engineering Instructor, Gina Fugate , and APH's Senior Software Engineer Technology, Product Research, Ken Perry. Hello, Gina and Ken , and welcome to Change Makers.

Ken Perry:

Hey, thanks. Thanks for having us on.

Gina Fugate:

Yeah, thank you for having us. Hello.

Sara Brown:

Thanks so much for coming on. Can you talk about why coding is important for students?

Ken Perry:

So , uh , I'll jump in first since I , I do this as a living , uh, I mean, first it can get you a good job, but more importantly, it can make any job. You do easier. So it doesn't matter if you're a math teacher or if you're , uh , doing books at a , um, college, or if you're an administrator of some company being able to code in some fashion, whether it be scripting or coding language, it can, and really speed up a lot of your work. We just had a problem here at work where we had over, I think it was 800 emails we had to sort through and it , and we had to figure out which one were good and which one sort bad. And just knowing how to code was made it, the job so much easier for my administrator because she was able to script it and actually get whatever the 600 good emails outta the bad ones. And that's the kind of little thing that people don't plan on. It's like, I'm not planning to be a programmer, but it comes out that the programming really helps.

Gina Fugate:

So Computer Science is, is actually being considered , um, a form of literacy because computer science is everywhere. And I believe that's been hashed by CSTA, the Computer Science Teachers Association and, and other areas. Um, we know that Computer Science is , um , being emphasized in kindergarten through 12th grade. So if that's going to happen within our schools, then we need to make sure that all of our students understand it and get to have access to it that everybody gets to play. Um, not to mention that Computer Science is really running our world and the phones that we have in our pockets, all of our "Madame A" devices , uh , is what we call them here so that we don't do the activation word , um, for some of the assistance . Um, but we really, we just need everybody to, to be a part of that.

Sara Brown:

And can you talk about the process of teaching code to students or how would one do so

Gina Fugate:

I'll jump in first for that one , um, to teach coding to students. I think the first thing to do is to make it meaningful. So to make it meaningful, they need to understand how it is present. Um, so I really just kind of touched on that with phone and , um , things like Siri, all of the digital assistants , robotics, once they understand that that's part of what makes that happen, then let's show them some actual code and go through it and help them to be able to do it and to do their own projects. One of the most exciting moments for, or my students was when they used Quorum to, to do a project that was Popeye's Chicken versus Chick-fil-A. And they, they were able to make the buttons work. They could make it say the name of, of the chicken. And they could also pick on the person who didn't like their favorite type of chicken , but that's meaningful to those students. So whether they become software engineers or whether they just walk away understanding that that's how it works. Um, that's how I approach computer science and making it meaningful and , um, something that they can access and do independently.

Ken Perry:

Yeah, I think I totally agree with that. Uh , but as for approaching it, I also think I'd like to add, you know, starting out, it's not all about Computer Science , uh , when I've talked a couple people, they , uh, the , the main thing is they need to understand their computer and coding kind of attaches onto that in the end. But if you don't know to use your screen reader , if you don't know how copy files, if you don't know how to get to the console and do , uh , things like that, it makes learning to code difficult. So it's important to get them really into their computers. Um, and that's why sometimes it's difficult when kids learn to code on an iPad , uh , with like swift-like playground tools and stuff. When they get to wanting to really code, you're gonna have to have a more , uh , PC system, like a Mac or , uh , windows or Linux . And so knowing how to get in touch with your screen reader is real , really important , um, to follow up with , uh , what Gina said was , um, I think it's important to point out , um, what coding can do for , uh , blind and low vision children. Um, one of , one of the big things, if you notice a lot of software just isn't accessible, well, if you learn Python, you can adjust your screen reader to make it work with apps better. Um, or you can make a app or a script to make things like creating PowerPoints easier. Uh, you can make an app script to , uh , make things like creating tables and documents easier. So you can control your world instead of having to about companies correctly making software, because that doesn't always happen.

Sara Brown:

Ken, as a software engineer, what do you keep in mind when developing coding products for children? Is there something that you kind of always make sure to have?

Ken Perry:

Well, you know, I , um , I love this question because I'm not sure, or I keep a lot more in mind when I'm developing software for children as I do adults or seniors, because children, as we know those of us who are really old, we know we, we were always letting the 14-year-olds and 12-year-olds program, our VCRs or our time devices and stuff, because they catch on a lot quicker than we do as we get older. And so one of the things when we're making software of any kind, the main goal is to make it. So when you open that software up, it should be like an iPhone or an Android experience where you run the app up in whether it be windows or iPhone or anything. And the screen you see helps you complete the task you do. And a lot of software isn't like that. It's getting more that way. Now that we've seen how useful these phones can be more and more Windows apps and Mac apps , uh, internet apps are becoming where you open them up and it's like , uh , here's what you need to do to do the task you're doing. So the trouble is though with blind and visually impaired students using apps that we develop, you can't see the whole screen at once. So you have to kind of bring them to the focus and give them some extra indication so that they can get to the information. And that's not always easy. Uh , but that's kind of where we , uh, try to put a lot of our time is to make things more , um, UN visually friendly so that you can actually find the task you're doing when you open the app.

Sara Brown:

And can you talk about how you got introduced to code?

Gina Fugate:

I can jump in with that one. Um, I had no intention to get into Computer Science. I came to Baltimore, Maryland, to be a technology teacher. And in that context, it was what Ken was talking about with , um, helping students to learn screen readers, different screen readers, different types of techs, so that they would have those foundational skills that they need. And then towards the end of my first year here at MSB, the, the teacher who was deeply involved in recruiting me, had another opportunity somewhere else. And he left. And that means that their position was oh open . And they happened to be the , uh , coach for the Dot Five U Dogs, which is a first LEGO league team. So the students didn't want that to stop. And no one was stepping up to take that position when the position was advertised. Aren't just looking for a teacher that visually impaired, they mentioned robotics and engineering. So when no one was applying and , um, I was sort of left behind saying, "oh my gosh, what's gonna happen?" "Are we gonna find another technology teacher?" It kind of was just an epiphany of, maybe I need to step up and, and see what I could do with this. The students were so excited about always going to competition. So first LEGO league is nationwide and actually an international competition. So when the dot five Udo go and they compete, they're competing against teams with typical vision. And because of the students, I got roped into computer science. Um, it also had happened that my first year with the Dot Five U Dogs, we had students who had to use the screen readers. It didn't matter if I tried to magnify things up on a smart board vision was, was not an option and that wasn't going to help us out. I also have Retinitis Pigmentosa, I , I couldn't handle and all of the , the work arounds, it just wasn't accessible. So we started on this journey of trying to make it accessible and learning about the, the problems with programming environments that aren't friendly with screen readers, that don't work with brow displays and fast forwarding a couple years, we continue you to problem solve . And eventually , uh, we embraced Quorum LEGO robotics, and that's just changed everything for us. And we've been involved in it when it was using sod beans. And now we're involved in it where it's using Quorum Studio, which is completely accessible. We can use command keys, we can jump all over the place. We can access the codes. So I'm not typing anything for the students. I'm not transferring anything for the students. They are able to do it. So it's all about the kids. And , uh, that's what roped me in. And then I, I really love this field. So it's, it's a privilege to be able to work with these students and to continue to learn. And it's a really supportive and community overall, too.

Ken Perry:

Uh, I started out when I was in high school with a , um , Atari basic class, and I did things like the old 10, 20, 30 programming languages with basic. So this was quite a while ago. Uh , and that was when I was cited . Um, so I went into the Air Force doing electronics. And when I lost my sight and retired from the Air Force , um, they, they kind of said, well, you're done with electronics. And I wish I would've known that I could do electronics though , but I went back to college and I took a degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and , um, finished that, got that. And , uh, that's kind of how I got back into coding, but mean, I did start coding when I was really young on a Vic 20, you know, which is a black, I had a black and white , uh , TV screen and just a computer little keyboard. And that's how I started coding. I coded a little palm game. Um, but you know, I had to get back into it because electronics wasn't as , uh , accessible. Um, I found out later and , uh , now I , I even do electronics and stuff, but , um, mainly that's how I got back into it. I started coding , uh , for a com well , uh , I started teaching Windows in Canada for a company, and then I ended up starting a computer club. And when I saw the job come open at APH , um , I just jumped on it because Larry Souchon was , uh , the current director there. And I had used ASAP, which was his screen reader all through college and stuff. And when I got the chance to work for him, I , I jumped on it. But during the interim , I also , uh , code my own commercial game since , uh , 1995. And it's still up online. Uh , people still do play it, but we don't have the same amount of players because in '98, when , uh , games like "Wow" and stuff started popping up, the tech space games got a lot less players because side of people , uh, you know, switched over to playing visual games. So we still run and I still have other servers out there that I coded. And there's a lot of , um, uh , blind users that still play the games. But , uh, you know, I, I kind of code that on my hobby side and then I also do open source coding. And so, I mean, that's kind of how I got into it is just from birth. I well , not birth, but so it's one let's see a about , uh , seventh grade I guess, is when I really started. And , uh, it's, it's a kind of a love thing because it doesn't matter if I'm working at, at home, I'm always coding something for something. And , uh, it's a , it's a lot of fun.

Sara Brown:

Nice Gina. I understand you're leading a site, that's conducting coding activities before the symposium. Can you talk a bit about what you're doing?

Gina Fugate:

So Amanda Rodda and I have been collaborating, she's actually written the Quorum activities for the symposium. Um, there is a beginner's track, and then there is an advanced track. Um, we will be working with students regionally , um, ahead of time to do those activities. And it's designed for anyone to be able to jump in and participate. So it's really exciting. You don't even have to have Quorum studio, even though I love Quorum studio, you can use the , um, the online environment , uh , which is newly updated and on the Quorum website and we're giving code and guiding through all of the lessons. So I'm really excited about that opportunity , um, and grateful to continue to, to work with Amanda. Who's one of my core mentors. Um, we also serve on the Quorum curriculum committee and help with content for the quo language.com website. So it's, it's always busy, but we welcome everyone to participate in those activities. If you've never done Quorum, if you've never done programming , um, there's, <affirmative> , there's every reason to jump in and try it. Now you have the support and we can certainly , um, help anyone with questions or things that they have. And again, I wanna emphasize that it's all accessible with screen readers. It's a , a solid, accessible and usable programming environment.

Sara Brown:

Ken, during the Coding Symposium, you're a panelist and a presenter. Can you give us a peek about what you plan to say to all the participants?

Ken Perry:

Yeah. So , uh, I can, I can give you a Henter by just giving you the title. Um, it's destroying Ophidiophobia. So in short, that's destroying the fear of snakes. Um, and that'll give you a Henter of what I'm gonna be talking about, but it'll also be kind of, I wanna run this a little different , uh, I don't wanna make it boring and just talk about a programming language. I'm going to kind of start out and see what , uh , people have to ask about. And , um, just, you know, since , uh, I didn't give it clear enough , uh , I'm gonna be talking about Python for about 50 minutes and , uh, I'm gonna give everybody at the beginning, you know, the chance to ask any questions, because a lot of the time the problem , uh, blind students have blind and low vision students have with Python are not really problems. They are , um, problems that kids think are problems. So I want to kind of go through Python, getting it going and getting started with Python. And , uh, you know, if there's some advanced people that have questions, we're gonna go over, anything people ask about, or I have a whole, you know , um, outline that I can go through. So my point is to make it as interactive as possible. So come and ask questions , uh , get involved. And, you know, if you have to make statements, that's probably gonna be allowed. So that's my presentation. Uh , and then I'll be on a, a panel with some other coders. Uh , we're gonna be there to ask , answer questions for students that are really looking at becoming programmers in the future.

Gina Fugate:

And Sara, if I could add a couple details , um, the beginner's track is focused on an escape room , a mad lib style . Um , and , and the advanced , um, lesson is focused on , um, beginning to learn how to program a game .

Sara Brown:

All that. Yeah, go ahead.

Ken Perry:

Yeah. I'd like to put a little more in that. Uh , it's funny that you mentioned the beginning is to, you know, program a game , a , uh , the students I have taught , uh , when you say , uh , make programming useful to the students. The easiest way to do that is to get them into writing games. Uh , my first student , uh , with Python , um , had their first game after their fourth lesson and , and it was a, and most of the first lessons was just , uh , understanding how the screen reader results and stuff came out. So the programming lessons were shorter than the learning to use your computer lessons. And , uh , the first game , uh , I still have it, it's pretty fun to play. Um, and , uh, so I mean, I was kind of a may said how much the student did with only input statements, if statements and loop statements. And , uh, he was able to write a full game and, and with sound , uh , it was pretty impressive.

Sara Brown:

Is there anything else you all would like to say?

Ken Perry:

Well, I think in general, since I was , uh, uh, involved with the last symposium and , uh , we're trying to make this more interactive and even more informative than the last time. So I would ask anybody who's going to be coming , uh, to bring questions, be ready to ask us stuff, because the more interactive you can be, the more informative we can be and the more fun the symposium could be. So I can't wait to see everybody at the symposium. And , um, we'll see you there.

Gina Fugate:

I guess I would add , um, that, you know, when I teach Quorum, it's sort of a beginning place for a lot of students. It's definitely not the ending place and something else that I've been trying to emphasize lately, in case we have people attending who are not blind or visually impaired, is that they can use quo. They can code with people who are blind. It doesn't really matter the language it's about making the experience accessible and inclusive, and we are making leAPH and bounds with more and more tools that are accessible. So if you are a person with typical vision and you wanna help kind of move this forward , um, you know, get to know the tools that are accessible and be inclusive. And as I like to say, celebrate it. So the, the National Coding Symposium by APH is definitely something to celebrate , um , any of the information that Ken shares and other people. We really just need to lift that up so that we can get the recognition from the different companies and help them to think in an inclusive way as well.

Sara Brown:

Thank you both so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

Gina Fugate:

Thank you for having us.

Ken Perry:

Great . Yeah. Thanks for having us.

Sara Brown:

Now. I have Center for Assistive Technology Training, also known as CATT, trainer, Jason Martin, here to talk more about some of the site projects. Hello, Jason, and welcome to Change Makers.

Jason Martin:

Hey, thank you. Thank you for having me

Sara Brown:

Now. Can you talk just briefly about how CATT and APH are connected?

Jason Martin:

Sure. So unlike the name implies, we don't house felines in, in our building, although it might be kind of cool. Uh, the CATT program is the Center of Assistive Technology Training, and we cover the entire Southeast region of nine states and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And we are a partnership between the American Printing House for the Blind and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. And of course, those guys are located in Louisville, but AIDB is located in Talladega, Alabama. And so we're a partnership between these two agencies to bring training APH products and generally knowledge of assistive technology to , uh, TVI's, students and consumers all around the Southeast.

Sara Brown:

And can you talk about your work as an Assistive Technology Trainer?

Jason Martin:

So what do you not do as an Assistive Technology Trainer? Like it's, it , it really is open ended . And of course with like, with the partnership between APH and CATT, an emphasis is on APH products and going through thoroughly with individuals, like one-on-one training of how to , they can better use these products, but at , is like this big expansive term. And it covers everything. So from digital document accessibility to "embossing like a boss ," um, or just, I'm a huge proponent of entertainment for people with visual impairment. So that's, that's a subject that I, I harp on on. I don't think we do enough stuff, you know, like it's always good to have more than I love reading. I love books, but it's, it's great to have anything additional that, that we can get in. So , uh , and one of my loves and I , I can't leave without saying my , probably my biggest love here is working with transition age youth. So like high school youth and working with STEM and high school youth , uh , to create creative programs, to get these kids interested in going into stem fields or college fields . So it's, it's, it's a lot of stuff , um, kind of rolled up into one .

Sara Brown:

I understand, I understand CATT is going to be a site. Can you talk about what lessons you plan to teach as part of the Coding Symposium?

Jason Martin:

Yes. Yes. So you caught me in the middle of all of this, which is great. Um, I've been, I've had a week of, of coding class classes with the students at the Alabama School for the Blind. So I've got 25 blind and visually impaired , uh, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I , I might be a little insane for taking that many kids, but , uh, I love it. I , I have, I've really soaked up them, just the , the experience, bringing this to this large group of kids, because most TVs work one on one . Generally we might have more than that, unless you're in a bigger school setting. So rarely are you gonna have 25 kids diving into Code Jumpers? So we've, we've been through the first half of the Code Jumper lessons, and we're going to get through there . We're not quite there yet. We're still in the middle of our week, but kids have been learning about sequencing, computer processes and systems looping and threads and coding. And it's all using not only APH's Code Jumper, but we also used kind of a product that's, it starts as early as four , but it really worked for the, the idea of sequencing and that's APH's Code & Go Mouse. Like it was a huge success with these students, so that they've loved it. Um, and Computer Science really, it it's all on how you approach it. So Code Jumper is a tool in this computer science class, right? Like it's, it's this , the concepts are Computer Science, but really the meat and potatoes. And the thing that we've been working with is this Code Jumper. So there's a lot of unplugged activities that we do , um, to, to describe sequencing, like the order of stuff, we could do something a little lame, like brushing your teeth and what do , what do we do in the morning when we get up? That's a whole points , but , um, I like to, to kick it up a notch. So we have this , um , activity that hopefully some of the footage will come out from called the dancing machine, where we make a program that that's all about dancing and the students have different moves in that program or different parameters. And it really helps them kind of get away from a computer, but kind of vision what these activities are. So there's, there's a lot of this unplugged stuff with Code Jumper. So it's, it's a mix . And I , I , I don't think the kids have really seen this type of <laugh> . I don't think they know how to , um, it's to comprehend a teacher. That's a little bit new . <laugh> , that's , that's a lot different, I guess, in that regard.

Sara Brown:

And you're doing some of these activities now, what is some of the feedback you've received from students?

Jason Martin:

So what I've gotten is, you know, at first, well, I know everything there is you get a gamut of kids, especially with having 25. You get, I don't, I might not even want to be here today to , I love computers. And is this about hacking and, and, you know, you , you get kind of a mix of both. And I think with, with all of the students, even if somebody hates the word computer, after going through this, they've got this recognition of at least some of the basics of computing. And so some, I , I feel like it's, it's a kind of a twofold thing. Some kids like the one that's, well, I'm not sure that I wanna be here. He's really turned, turned over a leaf. Like he he's, he's seen that, okay, this might be something I can use to get a job. This might be something I'm interested in later. And then the kid that wanted to hack the world <laugh> for nefarious purposes, probably it's come. I would say the concept for him. And I'm thinking of two in particular in the class, but the concept for him has become a little bit more concrete instead of this and, and a few students, I would say that instead of having this , um, super idea of lasers and robots, it's, it's more of, wow, this is what this actually is. And it's getting them in that thought process too. So it's kind of weird. It's going, you know, from the bottom up and from the top up and, and, and overall, I think they're happy to be exposed to something like this, to it's new. I think the colors of both Code Jumper and Code & Go Mouse , uh , weirdly enough, like that's something that I've heard a lot of is, you know , uh , I really like the colors. It was bright and colorful and, you know, that was kind of, I didn't expect that , um, students really find the word "hub" and "pod" hilarious. I'm not sure why <laugh> , but , uh, the play play pods and pause pods that are in Code Jumper and the Code Jumper hub is hilarious. So I , I , I think that's great, but overall, I mean, I had students going, asking the, the routine teachers that , that aren't a guest teacher. Like I am, "Hey, can we get this so we can, we can work on it after Mr. Martin leaves?" And to me, that's, that's what I want to hear. That, that , that's it, if it sparks that interest and it gets one kid to think about that career path, then I feel like it I've done my job. So it's it it's been great.

Sara Brown:

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Jason Martin:

So I I'll , I'll be honest with you. What's kind of incredible about this and it comes full circle. The Alabama School for the Blind is my Alma mater . I graduated from there. So coming back and, and looking at the sixth graders, and I shared a picture of myself in sixth grade, which is <laugh>, if you could only imagine , um, I , I , I have a visual impairment, but I do not wear glasses right now, but I had these giant Coke bottle glasses. I can say that they were mine. Um, back in the day and the sixth grade photo I'm wearing for some terrible reason, wearing the most God awful suit and tie in this photo. So I look like probably in a , a 60 year old ex banking executive in this photo, <laugh> ,

Sara Brown:

We're gonna blame mom or dad who dressed you.

Jason Martin:

<laugh> that that's right. And so like seeing these same kids that were in that grade and showing them that picture, which it for me still is hilarious. Some of I said, look, I came out okay. And, and I think really connecting and , and , and really coming full circle to knowing I've been in your shoes. I've been sitting here and, and, and I did express this to them . I said, I wish I , I would've given anything to have a, me, a teacher like myself coming in and show me these concepts early to really stick it. And, and at that time we didn't. And so like, it , it is that nice, like pay it forward to bring this to these students. So for me, that's, that's been very fulfilling and seeing just their interactions with Code Jumper is definitely gonna help me as a trainer to train teachers in the future to know these are the ins and outs of the device, and this is what kids will really love or, or not love. So it it's, it's been tiring, but it's been a blast.

Sara Brown:

Jason, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to join me on Change Makers.

Jason Martin:

Thank you.

Sara Brown:

Now I'd like to introduce the keynote speaker that Ted Henter. Henter is a computer programmer and business person he's actually retired. You might be familiar with one of his inventions, jaws job access with speech. It's one of the best known speech software packages on the market. Hello, Ted, and welcome to Change Makers.

Ted Henter:

Hi, Sara. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here.

Sara Brown:

Can you tell us about your background? It's really interesting.

Ted Henter:

Thank you. I was born and raised in the Panama Canal Zone in Central America. It was like a little piece of Florida just plumped down in a foreign country. I didn't even know I was in a foreign country until I was about 10 years old. It was very pleasant in the fifties and sixties. I was born in 1950 growing up there. I did a lot of water skiing there , a lot of lakes and rivers around there, and few oceans, 50 miles apart and water skiing. And then in surfing in the , in the early sixties. And then I got a motorcycle when I was 15. And that changed life from then on just all I wanna do is ride and race motorcycles, and that worked out pretty good, but because I grew up , uh, my dad was very mechanically inclined. He was an engineer. His father was a mechanic. I was very interested in mechanical things. Boats, motorcycles, bicycles, cars. We built, a dune buggy one summer. My dad and I. So , uh , I went , I went to college University of Florida to be a mechanical engineer, and that worked out pretty good. And I was racing motorcycles during college, and I was doing pretty good at that too. But the , uh, it was the days of the Arab Oil Embargo, 1973. And all the money went out of motorcycle racing. A lot of motorcycle businesses went out of business. RV companies went out of business. Both companies went our business, the recreational vehicles were, were not much money on . So I, I had odd jobs here and there worked in a hi-fi store. <laugh> I worked as an engineer, actually at a phosphate fertilizer plant . So things were going great and got married in , uh , 76 , my high school girlfriend. And I was doing quite well in racing. I won the Grand Prix of Canada in 73 was on the pole of Daytona in 74. Second up, Talladega 74. Fourth at Daytona in 78 . So eighth in the Venezuela GP third in the , uh , Guatemala GP , the things, things were going good. And I was enjoying life as a motorcycle racer. Wasn't making much money, but I was on my way to Spain for the second round of the world championships. And I stopped in England to visit a friend and to meet some new friends one night on the way back to my friend's apartment, I did not put on my seatbelt . And , uh, I forgot to drive on the left side of the road. So I head-on collision with a British guy. I swerved to the right. He swerved to the left and we, we collided not that fast, maybe 30 miles an hour to be my estimate, cuz we each saw a was happening and slammed on the brakes. Well, my face hit the windshield and broke the windshield. And in those days in England they didn't require a safety glass. So the , the windshield shattered and it cut up my face and my eyes had 80 stitches in my face and 13 stitches in each <affirmative> . And so that's pretty much the cause of my blindness. It was my, my fault with the car grass . So I can't blame anybody by myself. So it took me, oh well had I had two operations on one of the eyes. First one was quite successful, but the retina came off after six weeks. Like what the doctor said might happen because of scar tissue and things were pretty primitive back then, you know, I'm talking 1978 looks like 40 some years ago. This whole thing about reattaching retinas was quite new. So anyway , uh , my second operation was not a success and I knew that when I woke up in the , uh , in the hospital room, I knew then I was, I was blind and was gonna be blind. So I had about 10 minutes of despair and I had a , a warm feeling come over me like a spirit in the room, like an angel. And it , and it gave me an impression that everything was gonna be okay. I , I definitely got that message. I didn't get it through my ears or my eyes, but it ended up in my brain. And so everything's been okay since I never, never looked back, never tried to blame somebody else and just decided , well, I just gotta figure out how to make this work, which I did. I went back and I got to the Division Blind Services here in Florida. A counselor advised me to go back to college and be a computer programmer. That was the new thing. Then in the late seventies for blind people, which I did, and I met a friend of a friend, I got a job. I met Dean Blazie when he delivered one of the first talking computers to me. Uh , and we became friends. And after about a year and a half, he offered me a job Dean Blazie, the guy that invented the Braille `n Speak and the Romeo Brallier and all , all kinds of other things. So I worked for him in then in the early eighties learned that's where I really got my postgraduate learning about computers. I don't have a degree in computer science, but I, I had a few courses and I, I knew the basics and I learned a lot from Dean and Mike Romeo.

Sara Brown:

You've lost your sight and you're going back to school. Can you talk about where JAWS, because some of the going back to school sort of put you a on the path to creating something that is still highly respected and still used to this day, which is jaws. Can you talk about the creation of that?

Ted Henter:

Sure. Well, I worked for Dean for about five years and his business went out of went out of business, Maryland Computer Services. So I had to get a job with Enable Technology as a consultant, as a trainer. And in the process, I met this guy named Bill Joyce. He was blind. He was about my age, maybe a little older. I was , uh , early thirties then. And we became friends and I kept giving him ideas that I would like to do. And he said, well, "lets start a company." So he's the guy that said, let's start a company and create JAWS. And , uh , he paid for it and I ran the company and that's , that's pretty much it, but at the time, a lot of people wanna know what , how the JAWS name came about. So of course there was the movie about the shark and the mid seventies, I guess it was. And then there was a product on the market called "Flipper," which, which reminds me of the PPU , you know, on TV. And one time I was goofing around with a friend. I said, Hey, well, let's name our product JAWS and eat flipper . And that's how it started. But nobody liked it at first, not my wife. Didn't like, it <laugh> our programmer at the time. Didn't like it. But after a while, it kind of grew on me and I figured out it could mean Job Access With Speech. So that's how the name started. And that's how the company started the company was Henter/Joyce, you know, my name and Bill Joyce's name. So it was also his idea. We tried to think of some really cool groovy computer name, but they were all taken least the ones we can think of. We just say , well, it's just an after us. Uh , so that's how JAWS started. And that was of course, JAWS for Doss in , in the late eighties. So then it was time to do Windows along of our customers were telling us we gotta have Windows. So we started working on Windows, but it was very, very difficult, much more difficult than dos for a variety of reasons. And then in , uh , January of 1995 , we, we released our first version of JAWS for Windows and it was a little unstable admittedly and, but we, but people needed it . So we started selling like hot cakes and , um , over time probably a year or two, we improved it a lot and made it , um , more stable and more effective the way on the way I remember the NFB was given Microsoft static because Windows was so difficult, make accessible and all these small companies were having difficulty making it work. And so Microsoft decided , well, we'll, we'll fix that. We'll come out with our own. What's known as an offscreen model. That's the most difficult part, but window screen reader . And they said , well, we'll do that. And then they get free. And these other guys, the small companies that are making screeners will have a much easier job of it . So they searched around and they, they asked me if I wanted to sell or house screen loan . I said , well , sure. So we sold it to that . They , they , my understanding is they interviewed every , everybody that had an offscreen model and they, they chose ours. And , uh, of course word got out that Microsoft chose JAWS. And then our sales went crazy from there. And there was , uh , one other technical hurdle that back then there was , there was Windows 95 and there was Windows NT , new technology I think, is what it was called. And that was the more secure one. And that's what the big businesses wanted . The , the airline companies, Social Security, IRS and SA . So nobody had one screener that could work with that. Well , there was a guy up in Boston that had a magnification product, you know, a low vision magnification product that worked with Mt . So we, to him and we bought the secrets from him and with Glen's help . Well with Glen's effort, he , uh, saw what was going on there and merged that software in with the child software. So at that point in time, that must have been around 97 or 98. We had the only Windows NT screen reader . Well, that's the way I remember it . I'm thinking maybe IBM had one, but I , I'm not sure. So that opened up the door for a lot of the government business. Like I mentioned, Social Security, IRS NSA , a lot of the , uh , big companies like FedEx and UPS. Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Hilton Hotels. So we were selling like crazy. And then of course there was colleges, I think at one point we sold, I don't know how many to the university system in California. And eventually I think every, every university in college and the state system had copies of JAWS in their computer labs. And a lot of other states did that too. Like here in Florida, we were the favored product we weren't initially, but by the time jaws for windows came out , uh , the folks who in Florida, they make the buying decision. They liked ours the best. And so we, we sold a lot to government agencies, colleges, anybody that needed a screenwriter. They usually got jobs here in Florida and a lot of other states it worked out really good.

Sara Brown:

So when JAWS is in the market and it's spreading like wildfire. What was it like when you started hearing feedback?

Ted Henter:

<laugh>, that's a funny question. Cause not all feedback is positive, so, but a lot of feed , even if it's negative, it's good. You know, cuz it helps you identify the problems, identify the features that are needed for the next version. So negative feedback is just as good as positive feedback, but it's the positive feedback that makes you feel good. So we just felt terrific. We started selling a lot of JAWS. We started hiring a lot of people. Uh, we, we were starting to make a lot of money and it just, things were starting to work, you know, because at that point in time it had been 15 years since I got in the business with Dean Blazie. So it it's not like an overnight success. And then it was 10 years after we started Henter/Joyce that we really started , uh, being successful in the market.

Sara Brown:

Well, looking back. Okay . So we're , we , we , we, we we've heard where you , how you got to where you are today. So looking back over everything that you've done and accomplished and, and with the jaws , um, what unique stories or unexpected barriers did you face while developing that software?

Ted Henter:

Oh , that's a good question. Um, I don't think I mentioned that when I, when I went back to college, there were no talking computers. There were no braille displays in , in 1998 or 99 . Yeah. 98 or 99 . So when I walked into the computer lab, the professor had to ask for volunteers to help me at the computer terminal because I didn't know how to type and I couldn't see the screen <laugh> so I was pretty much stuck, but luckily, you know, I , uh , nice young lady volunteered to help me and she would read the screen to me and I would tell her what to type after a while. I, I learned how to type, not , not very well, but that went on for helping me for two or three different classes. And I forget what the other ones, one , along the way I bought this computer terminal from Dean Blazie, it was one of those very first ones . Actually the Division of Services State of Florida bought it for me. It was $6,000 . That was a lot of money back then, but that's like $26 ,000 now. So the funny thing is yes, it would talk, but it wouldn't, it would only spell it. Wouldn't talk like, and I'm talking now, if I had to type in or read , perform , which is a function call in Cowell , it would go "P E R F O R M" just one letter at a time . It was very frustrating . Very slow . Well , that was one . When , when I first started out, there were no talking computers .

Sara Brown:

I know you're not affiliated with jaws anymore, but how does that feel when you hear that? It's still pretty much the gold standard.

Ted Henter:

Oh , it feels terrific. Of course. And you know , I , I meet people at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I was just there two weeks ago, the local one Lighthouse of <inaudible> . And I met a bunch of people there that were just ecstatic about JAWS and about meeting me. It it's a , it's good of ego boost . And at this point in time, most of what I hear are the , are the good things. I'm not doing tech support , so they're not coming to me and complaining about certain issues. They , if they meet me or see me or around , you know, they , it's very nice, positive things.

Sara Brown:

Looking towards the future . What future innovations or features would you like to see on screen reader, devices or screen reader software?

Ted Henter:

That's a good question. And I really don't know the answer to that cause I'm really not in tune with the issues and the problems I use my, my Windows computer every day . So I , I really can't speak to the issues of, of Windows in, in this modern day. But I tell you what, what I do see is , uh , everything's going to the smartphones and as you know, smartphones can do just about anything and Windows PC can do. I don't like it cuz it doesn't have a keyboard. And I know a lot of my friends that use, let's say the iPhone, they like to use an external keyboard. Well, I've done that too. What I I've applied for a patent on an idea to , uh , overlay a keyboard, not a physical keyboard, but a software keyboard on top of the iPhone or , or the Android and with , uh , a plastic screen over overlay with dots on it, you can basically feel the positions of a numeric path and I'm hoping to develop software that will allow that like we do in JAWS, we have a full size keyboard in windows. You have a numeric pad . You can use that in numeric pad to not only input numbers, but to input screen reading commands like up arrow down arrow, say line next line . So my , uh , hope is to software to over overlay those functions on the smartphone and then add a tactile screen is just a thin plastic screen are available from speed dots already. The speed dots makes these thin plastic screens with the dots, the dots in depth . Awesome in that . So hopefully, so my point is about what the future's gonna bring. There's gonna time. I think when we're, when blind people all too , as well as side people, we'll be able to use that smartphone for just about everything that you do on a computer. And I , I think that's, what's gonna come cause smartphones are so much cheaper and uh , well , you're just as powerful as the Windows computer. So that's what I think is gonna happen. That smartphones are gonna be more accessible to blind people. And that's pretty much it as far as good ideas go. Oh, and what I've always wanted to do was since I thought of this math tool, we, we start got button , a math tool , the product was called virtual pencil. I could see that that would be a great product to put on a smartphone. And then the student elementary school, junior high, high school college, and just walk around with it in their pocket. When you get the class, they can do the math is , was to I'd say a braille writer . Well, that hasn't happened yet. I would still like to do it, but haven't done it yet. So a lot of these things , I , I've just been very, very fortunate to meet the right people and, and learn the right things. One thing I'd like to impart to our audience, which I , I assume are one of the programmers. It's a great career. You make a , it's a great career, you have a lot of opportunities working a lot of different , interesting products. And, but I've always tried to impart the success or opportunity will come. But when it does strike, you gotta be ready. You gotta be prepared. And by that, I mean, go to school, go to college, learn how to be a programmer, do whatever training you need to do. And just don't sit there and expect something nice to happen to you . Get ready, cuz it will happen. Like , like in my case, I went to college, even though I already had a college degree, I went back to college cuz I had a new career field and thing . Good things started happening. Uh don't skimp on your education. Go get some.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much, Ted, for joining us on Change Makers today.

Ted Henter:

You're very welcome, Sara. Thanks for the opportunity. Always have a good time talking about the good old days. Thank you.

Sara Brown:

So yes, the Coding Symposium is for all ages. However adults might want something catered just to them. We have APH's ABID Director Tai Tomasi here to tell us what's here for adults looking to learn how to code. Hello, Tai, and welcome to Change Makers.

Tai Tomasi:

Hi Sara. Thanks so much for having me today.

Sara Brown:

So what, what is offered for adults that are interested in learning code?

Tai Tomasi:

So around this time, last year I was contacted by someone who was looking for some resources on coding for adults and how she could learn coding , um, so that she could be prepared to do some other mainstream , uh, camps and classes and courses and, and different programs. And some of those programs have some barriers , um, just because they're not set up to teach blind and visually impaired adults, how to use the software that they have to use in order to access those. So , um , when you're you , when you're coding as a blind or visually impaired person, you're often using additional software and sometimes there are some unique challenges that need to be navigated to do that, to do that work with that software. So , um, because of that inquiry, we developed , um, several classes to address that need and uh, we've had great turnout , uh, in the first one in March, we had 256 participants, which is great. And we're looking forward to our second course, starting in April, which is going to be , um, a continuation of that with a little more in depth programming knowledge.

Sara Brown:

Are there any prerequisites for the participants?

Tai Tomasi:

Yeah, so , um, there are a few prerequisites or expectations that we have for our , uh , participants. Uh, one thing that's very important is that students need to be able to use their screen access software of choice. So for example, if you are a blind user and you do not use screen modification , but you use , uh , screen reading software , uh , we need you to be fully , um, able to use that software and know all the commands that would get you through , um, any kind of task using that software. Um, same thing with , if you use using magnification , uh , we would wanna make sure that you as a participant understand how to use that magnification software. Um, and, and we go from there. So , um , that's the basic requirement. Um, certainly people need to be able to , um, devote some time to the classes, maybe a couple hours a week outside of the class to really learn the content. And as we through these , they get a little bit more complex. So , um , making sure that you have the availability to, to devote some time to that, those are the main main requirements. Also, it would be , um, helpful to have internet access. Obviously we're using the internet for a lot of this. So , um, it's important to have a computer that can run , um, all of the different programs we're using, having a computer that's fairly modern. It doesn't have to be brand new, but it needs to be , uh, you know, have kind of the , basically the minimum requirements that you need to use the internet and use a screen reading software package or screen magnification.

Sara Brown:

And what's the goal for those taking the classes? Is it, you know, are you thinking for them to maybe look into that career field or maybe take on more tasks at their current place of employment?

Tai Tomasi:

I think the goal is whatever the person wants it to be. It could be , um, for learning something to embark on a new career. Certainly we envision this as very career oriented. However, it could also be , um, something people are learning as a, as an enthusiast, a computer , um , enthusiast , uh , someone who wants to do this on the side or maybe as a different , uh , different job. But yes, we did envision it as , um , something that could lead to more career opportunities for participants.

Sara Brown:

And if, if an adult out there is interested in learning co where can they go if they want additional information?

Tai Tomasi:

Um, we have, these courses are posted on our social media channels. Um, there will be an upcoming announcement coming out on our APH , um , all of our APH social media channels. And then those who have already registered for the class before , uh , you will get another email. We're building an email list for that, so that people will be notified of new offerings in this arena. So , um, just check with APH social media channels, wherever you find them , um , Twitter, Facebook , um, all , all the places that we post and that information will be shared , um, in the very near future for the April class , uh , sometime this week.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Tai. And is there anything else you would like to add about this wonderful program?

Tai Tomasi:

Well, please feel free to contact me here at APH. If you have any questions on anything that we've talked about today , um, you can reach mat accessibility@aph .org .

Sara Brown:

Awesome. Ty, thank you so much for coming on.

Tai Tomasi:

Thanks so much for having me

Sara Brown:

I've put links to the Coding Symposium as well as more information on those classes. Ty was just talking about in the show notes. There's also additional JAWS links in there as well. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers as always be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.